50 Years Ago He Diverted a Plane to Cuba and Now He Wants to Return to Argentina

Suffering from depression, with difficulty communicating and several after-effects of strokes, Mazor regrets being trapped in Cuba. (Infobae)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, December 27, 2023 — With two strokes, a poorly shaved beard and a nervous wreck, no one would say that the patient Basilio José Mazor, awaiting death in the municipality of Artemisa, is the same young Argentinean who, on 4 July 1973, hijacked a Boeing 737 and forced its landing in Havana. Now, after spending his entire life in the country whose regime he revered, the impossibility of a decent old age has motivated his son to demand Mazor’s return to his native country.

Mazor starred in the “most forgotten air hijacking in Argentina,” the digital Infobae recalled this Tuesday, along with some photographs that show the deplorable state of the former “air pirate.” A sympathizer, although not a member, of the People’s Revolutionary Army – the military arm of the Marxist-oriented Revolutionary Workers Party – he boarded the Aerolíneas Argentinas plane that took him to Cuba at the age of 24 with a shotgun under his poncho.

He had a son in 1972, whom he named Basilio, and who now – after several decades of separation – he is the one who requests his return to Argentina

He was born in 1949 in the town of Pergamino, not far from Buenos Aires. He had a son in 1972, whom he named Basilio, and who now – after several decades of separation – is the one asking for his return to Argentina. The boy had to live with his grandparents from the time Mazor bought the ticket and boarded Aerolíneas Argentinas flight 558, from the capital to Jujuy, on the border with Chile.

The hijacking was covered down to the last detail, since a journalist and a photojournalist from Siete Días magazine were also traveling on the plane. Mazor, with his strange clothing (a 16-gauge double-barreled shotgun, a cartridge belt across his chest and a poncho with Inca motifs) and an attack of nerves, claimed when asked why he was shaking that it was the first time he had flown in his life.

At noon, Mazor got up from his seat and went to the captain’s cabin, displayed his shotgun and said: “I am from the People’s Revolutionary Army. We are going to go first to Córdoba, where there will be an evacuation, and then we will head to Chile and then to Cuba.” The flight attendants tried to stop the panic, with little success: Mazor also announced the presence of a bomb on the aircraft. “It will explode when I want,” he threatened.

At noon, Mazor got up from his seat and went to the captain’s cabin. (Infobae)

The plane experienced numerous difficulties reaching its destination, with a stopover in Chile. There, President Salvador Allende provided it with fuel to reach Cuba, as he had done on other occasions with several ship hijackers. Mazor, as he later confessed, hoped that this “action” would earn him the respect of the leaders of the People’s Revolutionary Army and the Havana regime. “If Cuba does not protect a commander of an armed group, I would say that socialism is failing in its very cradle,” he repeated.

At the José Martí International Airport they disarmed him. The soldier to whom he handed the weapon then discovered that the kidnapper’s shotgun didn’t even work. The plane returned to Buenos Aires shortly after. Mazor, however, ended up in a prison in Pinar del Río.

His son Basilio, whom he abandoned when he was 15 months old, told Infobae that his life, more than the plot of a spy novel, is a soap opera. He entered the Island on his left foot, and after several decades “he is not living well,” he laments. The event cost the family left behind dearly. They received threats and, in a small town like Pergamino, they were marked, he says.

For his part, Mazor was released shortly after, and was issued a ration book and some clothing. He worked as a children’s soccer coach and was married twice. He had daughters from both marriages, but they emigrated to Mexico and Miami, respectively. Taking advantage of his status as a foreigner, for a time he dedicated himself to buying items and food in the so-called diplotiendas to resell them later. That business, however, also came to an end.

The plane returned to Buenos Aires shortly after. Mazor, however, ended up in a prison in Pinar del Río. (Infobae)

Mazor is alone in Artemisa and has said more than once that, after living in Cuba, not a day goes by without him regretting having hijacked the plane. “I only wanted to draw attention without hurting anyone,” he alleges, adding: “I hope the end of my life is not tragic. I would like to be able to live with my daughters and visit Argentina, which is why I insist so much on the forgiveness of Argentinians.”

Suffering from depression, with difficulty communicating and with several consequences from his strokes, Mazor regrets being trapped in the current crisis on the Island at the age of 74 and wants to leave. He never talks about what happened on July 4, 1973. His old friend Rody Piraccini, a journalist from Pergamino, summed up his life this Wednesday in a phrase that sounds like an epitaph: “He thought that in Cuba he would be a hero, but they put him to work in the sugarcane.”


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